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Issue 95, December 2006

Managing Someone Else's Medicines

Many people provide unpaid help and support to someone else, usually a family member who has a disability or serious health problem. People who take on this role are often called 'carers'.

Being a carer often involves talking to doctors about the person's health care and medicines, and obtaining, managing and giving them their medicines. This can be a huge responsibility, so it's useful to know a few things about managing medicines, and where to get information and advice.

It helps if you know about the person's medicines, and why they need to take them. So, find a doctor and pharmacist whom you feel comfortable talking with and asking such questions of. Also, make sure each of the person's health professionals are aware of your role in managing their medicines, and see you as part of 'the team'. Write down your questions, and take the list with you when you see the person's doctor or pharmacist, so you don't forget anything. You might like to write down the answers too, or get them to do it for you.

Questions to ask include:
  • What is the medicine's name, and what is it for?
  • Are there any possible side effects? What should I do if they occur? Will they fade with time or continue indefinitely?
  • For how long should they take the medicine?
  • What should I do if a dose is missed?
  • Will the medicine interfere with any of their other medications?
  • Will the medicine affect any of their other health problems?
  • Is there anything they should avoid while taking the medicine?
  • Can you help me keep a list of their medicines?

Keeping a list of the person's medicines to take with you whenever you accompany them to their health professionals may save you a lot of time and confusion.

Keeping a diary of the person's problems, including any suspected side effects, will make it easier for you to tell the doctor about them.

Medicines, including medicines from pharmacies and health food shops, can interact with each other, and have unintended effects. If possible, buy all the person's medicines from one pharmacy to make it easier to pick up any possible interactions between medicines.

Always read the medicine's label and accompanying leaflets carefully, and seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist if you have any doubts. If you need more information about a prescription medicine, ask your pharmacist.

If the person takes several medicines, talk to their doctor about having a pharmacist come to their home to do a Home Medicines Review.

And, last but not least, don't forget about your needs, including your health needs. The principles discussed above apply equally to you!

Learning more
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist or talk with your Social Worker.

The use of material published by Carers Australia is gratefully acknowledged.
"Contact" - Victoria HD Newsletter Issue 27 May/June 2005

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